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Volunteer Jason Garber, parent of a student at Pleasant Plains Elementary School, expresses his enthusiasm for donations at the 2019 spring drive, held in April.
Volunteer Jason Garber, parent of a student at Pleasant Plains Elementary School, expresses his enthusiasm for donations at the 2019 spring drive, held in April. (Laurie Taylor-Mitchell)

As the weather gets colder and we head into the holidays, it’s a time to count our own blessings and also to consider how we can be of service to others. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of people in need.

But, thankfully, there are also abundant ways to help. The Student Support Network’s annual fall drive is one of those opportunities to make a difference.

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By the end of 2019, the Student Support Network will have provided more than $200,000 in monetary and in-kind donations to help combat local student hunger and poverty. Originally the Loch Raven Network, started by Laurie Taylor-Mitchell in 2015, the nonprofit group became Student Support Network in 2018 to reflect its expanded mission of aiding Baltimore County Public Schools. This time last year, Taylor-Mitchell was invited to the State House and named “Community Activist of the Year.”

The Student Support Network holds two major donation campaigns annually — and it’s time for one of them. “The spring and fall drives help schools collect items for students in need twice a year, when the weather changes,” Taylor-Mitchell said. “This is a big opportunity to help thousands of students living in poverty.”

The fall drive will be held on Friday, Nov. 8, from noon to 5 p.m., and Saturday, Nov. 9, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Fellowship Hall of St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, 1108 Providence Road.

Towson area schools that will be served by the event include Dumbarton Middle, Loch Raven Technical Academy, Loch Raven High, Ridge Ruxton School, Parkville High, Pine Grove Middle and Padonia International Elementary. In all, the drive is expected to assist 22-25 schools around Baltimore County.

People dropping off donations can choose to designate a particular school, or give to the drive in general. There is also an online option to support the fall drive at studentsupportnetwork.org. All money collected during the drive will buy items still needed by participating schools.

Donations requested by schools include: nonperishable food such as cereal bars, granola and protein bars (no nuts); boxes of tuna or chicken with crackers; fruit in flip-top cans or cups; cheese crackers; belVita biscuits; 100% juice boxes; and individual packs of Goldfish, pretzels, Pop Tarts, PediaSure.

Also needed are new toiletries including deodorant, shampoo, lotion, sunscreen, body wash, Chapstick, feminine supplies, acne wash, brushes and combs, individual toothbrushes, toothpaste, hand sanitizers, Band-Aids, and Size 6 diapers; household supplies such as paper towels, toilet tissue, laundry soap, trash bags, can openers and Clorox wipes; new or gently used linens and towels.

In addition, new underwear and socks for toddlers through teens are sought, as are girls’ leggings in all sizes, and new and gently used coats, hats and gloves.

A more detailed wish list of items can be found at studentsupportnetwork.org.

One anonymous donor to the spring drive said: “I’m just so glad to be a small part of the solution. I want every kid to have as many or more opportunities than I had. I want them to realize the future is theirs to write.”

For more information, or to volunteer, email Jan Bahner at jbahner.ssn@gmail.com

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